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Dolphins vs Vikings Reaction

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Stefanski coached his first game as the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator and he may have orchestrated the last game of Matt Burke‘s tenure as the Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator.

Maybe the miracle wiped the emotion out of everyone.

I’d say an illegal touching penalty on Brice Butler on the team’s 2nd possession was an omen that this game wasn’t going to go well. It may have been Matt Haack‘s punt from the Viking’s 45 yard line that ended up bouncing into the end zone that made for a perfect metaphor. Nope, it was most-definitely the 4th-down stop the Minnesota Vikings made when Ja’Wuan James virtually tackles Ryan Tannehill for a comical sack that summarizes this team’s performance today – and quite possibly, their 2018 season as a whole.

After sucking us back into the season in dramatic fashion last week against the New England Patriots, the Dolphins reminded us why they’re far from a playoff team with a lackluster performance on the road against the Minnesota Vikings.

We knew going into Minnesota would be tough, but we didn’t expect it to be embarrassing; though maybe we should have. The Dolphins are now 1-6 in road games this season – a consistent stain on Adam Gase‘s resume.

The good news? This was the only game Miami could afford to lose the rest of the season and still have a realistic chance at the playoffs. The bad news? Everyone else in the playoff picture (Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens) won.

Miami is going to need a lot of help if they want to make the playoffs, but it starts with consecutive victories against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills.

Below are a few things we noticed from Miami’s 41 – 17 loss to the Vikings:

1) Drain the Defense

This actually might start with the front office. Look at how Miami spent its cap space this season:

(team rank / player / cap hit)
1) Robert Quinn – $11.44m
2) Andre Branch – $10m
4) Kiko Alonso – $9.66m
5) Cameron Wake – $9.62m
9) Reshad Jones – $4.96m

The Dolphins gave up a 4th-round draft pick for their costliest player. They prematurely extended their second-most expensive player after he recorded 5.5 sacks and the team was desperate for defensive ends (they selected Charles Harris in the first round that following draft). Miami did the same with Kiko Alonso that same offseason (though it’s hard to complain about him after watching the rest of this defense). And the bottom two players on the above list are legends on a franchise that doesn’t make the playoffs.

This team was hit with a bunch of injuries, but we need to stop leaning on that excuse. There are no longer excuses as for why the Minnesota Vikings accumulated 101 rushing yards…in the first quarter. The team’s depth has been terribly exposed, and Matt Burke has not been able to adjust to the team’s most-glaring weakness.

Dalvin Cook came into this game averaging 45.9 yards per game and Latavius Murray came into this game averaging 36.2 yards per game. Cook finished with 136 yards and 2 touchdowns while Murray rushed for 68 yards and a touchdown of his own.

Although Robert Quinn added another (shoestring) sack to his total, he was noticeably getting wiped out of the play on the first two rushing touchdowns by the Vikings. Bobby McCain may have been watching too many replays of Rob Gronkowski last week during the Miami Miracle, because his angle on Cook’s first touchdown run was atrocious.

McCain wasn’t to be outdone, however, as Latavius Murray’s touchdown run in the first quarter came with a nice little stiff arm to Bobby McCain’s helmet – leading to a physical lapse by the cornerback compared to the mental lapse on the previous touchdown run.

We can excuse the few shortcomings Minkah Fitzpatrick has each week. Not only is he a rookie, but he’s being tasked with understanding every position in the secondary. McCain was at his natural inside corner position on those touchdown runs and was a detriment rather than the luxury that earned a contract extension this past offseason. In fairness to McCain, he did have a better second half, but after the Vikings had scored 21 points in the first quarter, it’s hard to compliment a player that put the team in such a tight bind.

Each time Fitzpatrick allows a reception I look at the play negatively. And yet, these are receptions that are going for maybe 8-13 yards at a time, not the 40-yard bombs that blow up an entire game plan.

The Derwin James vs Minkah Fitzpatrick debate is going to follow them their entire careers, but the biggest reason people have for selecting James over Fitzpatrick (as the better draft pick) is because the Los Angeles Chargers safety ‘makes big plays’. Fitzpatrick showed he can be equally as impressive when he read a Kirk Cousin‘s screen pass beautifully and took it to the house for a touchdown.

Maybe Minnesota understood how to expose Miami’s defense better than Bill Belichick, but it was evident the Dolphins missed Xavien Howard. Kirk Cousins completed just 2/3 of his passes, and only threw for 215 yards, but he didn’t really need much help from Adam Thielen or Stephon Diggs (even though they had plenty of open space to work with). Cousins completed 2 passes apiece to Tyler Conklin and Aldrick Robinson, but those 4 completions averaged 24.25 yards per play.

Outside of Fitzpatrick’s pick-6, this defense didn’t have too many bright spots. T.J. McDonald was exposed in coverage and Torry McTyer was beat on a long touchdown to Robinson. This defense has valuable core pieces, but it also needs an overhaul.

And it’s going to start with the defensive coordinator.

2) A Fireable Offense

Which stat would you like to pull out of this game that exemplifies Miami’s mediocrity?

  • 37 total passing yards (that’s not a misprint)
  • 11 passes completed
  • 193 total yards on offense
  • 2/12 3rd-down efficiency
  • 9 sacks allowed

That’s 2 more completed passes than sacks for those counting at home.

This doesn’t take into account two pass plays that Ryan Tannehill forced and Miami’s wide receivers needed to bat down. This doesn’t point out the fact that they gained some of these yards in garbage time.

One week after everyone was ready to anoint Tannehill the 2019 opening day starter, fans are back to clamoring for the top quarterback prospect in the draft – whoever it may be. They just need fresh blood.

Erase the 75-yard touchdown run Kalen Ballage had and this offense mustered 118 yards the entire game. That would have been 29.5 yards per quarter! A lot of the problems have to do with the offensive line, but we also have to recognize that a lot of offensive issues today stemmed from the Dolphins receivers.

The normally sure-handed Danny Amendola dropped two passes and also juggled a punt return late in the game. DeVante Parker was nonexistent (1 target). Kenny Stills caught one reception in garbage time. Brice Butler’s biggest play was negated because he stepped out of bounds and received an illegal touching penalty. Mike Gesicki caught a couple of passes, but makes no impact whatsoever on offense.

The team’s shiftiest running back (Kenyan Drake) is nursing an injury and was sparingly used while the team’s most reliable running back (Frank Gore) left the game in the first quarter with a foot sprain. A lot can be said for the poor quarterback performance today, but we also need to point out the collective failure of an offensive unit.

Similar to the defense, the issue might start with the front office. This is how the rest of the top-10 most expensive players rounds out for Miami:

(team rank / player / cap hit)
3) Kenny Stills – $9.75m
6) Ja’Wuan James – $9.34m
7) Ryan Tannehill – $8.68m
8) Danny Amendola – $6m
10) DeVante Parker – $3.46m

That’s a lot of average to non-existent production from Miami’s top-10 cap hits this season.

While quarterback will be the most-discussed topic this offseason, look for the Dolphins to overhaul their tight ends (once again) and their wide receivers, as it’s possible none of Miami’s receivers in 2019 were active for this game. There’s a good chance the only returning wide receivers from this year’s roster are Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant, both of whom have serious injuries that they might not be able to come back from.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Gore. Miami desperately needs to win these next two games, and if Gore is unable to perform near 100%, he may be the latest casualty to land on injured-reserve.

With Brandon Bolden and Kalen Ballage having good games for Miami, it’s possible they run with their current trio (with Senorise Perry as insurance) rather than risk an unhealthy Frank Gore.

If this happens to be the case, and Gore does indeed land on IR, it’ll be a disappointing way to see the running back’s season end. Gore had accumulated 722 rushing yards on the season (including this game against Minnesota) and was Miami’s most-durable and reliable option at running back all year. Though it may be hard to find space for him, signing Frank Gore near the veteran’s minimum would be a priority of mine next offseason.

The Dolphins look to play with our hearts again next week as they host the disappointing Jaguars in Miami.

Growing up a passionate Dolphins fan in Jets territory, Jason learned from an early age that life as a Dolphins fan wasn’t going to be easy. Previously the Sports Editor for his university newspaper, Jason has experience writing columns, creating game recaps and conducting interviews with Hall of Fame athletes (Harry Carson and Yogi Berra are two of his proudest interviews). When he’s not dissecting the latest sports news, you can find him perplexed over the Dolphins offensive line woes or involuntarily introducing music to his neighbors.

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Miami Dolphins

The Levee Breaks in Jersey – Dolphins Giants Week 15 Recap

Travis Wingfield

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Dolphins break record for most players used, blowout loss ensues

The entire Dolphins operation took a back seat to the A-block story of Eli Manning in his final start at MetLife Stadium. Although riddled with mistakes, Miami played a strong first half, but unraveled after the intermission. With a first half lead, the Dolphins were outscored 16-0 — and out-gained 187-19 — in the third quarter, with the Giants scoring the first 13 points of the fourth quarter as an encore.

Miami’s experimental season became tangibly explainable Sunday as the Dolphins gave its 80th-differnet player a snap. The previous record was 78 players in one single season. Miami’s roster is currently comprised of 23 undrafted free agents (43%, most in the NFL). The Dolphins made 74 roster moves since week one and have 17 players on injured reserve — both of those are second most in the NFL.

Stat Dolphins Giants
Total Yards 384 412
Rushing 122 138
Passing 262 274
3rd / 4th Down 4/16 (25%) 5/11 (45.5%)
Penalties 7 (42 yards) 4 (32 yards)
Sacks For 1 3
TOP 28:53 31:07

 

DolphinsGiants

The things that made Miami a competitive team for the last two months were of the “takes no talent” variety. Dropped passes, penalties, turnovers, missed field goals, even the occasional miss from Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Dolphins simply are not good enough to overcome the many errors committed in the blowout loss.

Despite the majority of Miami’s six dropped passes occurring in the first half, Fitzpatrick compiled the most Dolphin passing yards in a single half (234 yards) since Ryan Tannehill’s 2015 game against Houston. The Dolphins moved the chains 14 times (also a season high), combing Fitzpatrick’s arm and legs; he is now the team leader in rushing yards for the 2019 season with 219 yards.

It would be completely understandable for the Dolphins to go into the proverbial tank these last two games. The final home date with Cincinnati on-deck, followed by a season finale in Foxboro, 3-13 looks to be more than a possibility, but rather a probability.

More on how that could affect the Dolphins draft positioning in the recap segment at the bottom of the page. Let’s get to the individuals.

Quarterback

It looked like business for usual for Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins offense early at the Meadowlands Sunday. He was ripping the Giants zone defense for chunk yardage, escaping pressure and moving the chains with his legs, but coming up short in the red zone for the second consecutive game.

Miami’s first two drives traveled 99 yards, but yielded no points. Fitzpatrick had two misses that cost Miami points. First, a back-shoulder fade to Devante Parker left too far inside led to a turnover-on-downs. Then, on a later 3rd down, Fitzpatrick underthrew Parker to allow the defensive back to break up the pass. Miami would punt, opposed a fresh set of downs from inside the Giants 35-yard-line.

The dagger occurred on a Fitzpatrick run that resulted in a lost fumble, though the officiating crew blew the call on the field and in replay. Miami dropped six passes — including a ball off the facemask in the end zone — so it’s difficult to put too much of the blame on the quarterback.

Running Backs

Patrick Laird has some moments, but the gaffes are a weekly occurrence. He dropped another pass, failed to win a one-on-one situation on a stretch run that resulted in a safety, and he gets beat in pass protection every game. His 18-yard run saved his average for a respectable 3.8 yards per rush on 12 carries.

Myles Gaskin had a similar, average-saving run. Gaskin popped a 27-yarder in garbage time to get to 43 yards on nine carries, but he too has his shortcomings in pass protection.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Devante Parker has been consistent as they come this season. In his first game off the new contract that is schedules to keep him in Miami through the 2023 season, Parker went for 72 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including another win on a 50-50 ball (more apt to call them 70-30 balls with Parker in range).

Albert Wilson was involved in the plan to the tune of five receptions on eight targets for 59 yards. Wilson has the shifty quality in condensed spaces that will provide the Dolphins with two, highly-utilizable traits going forward: 1.) uncover quickly from the slot on two-way-goes, and 2.) key misdirection to open up space for the rest of the offense.

Wilson’s start-stop ability, along with his prowess as a ball carrier could be a valuable piece in Chad O’Shea’s offense next season. He’ll have to be, in order to justify his retention at $8 million. The upside, for Miami, the commitment doesn’t extend beyond 2020. The team can certainly afford to keep Wilson on the books for another year and a better look at the player two full years removed from the hip injury.

Allen Hurns and Isaiah Ford were limited. Ford was the culprit of the facemask drop on a would-be touchdown in the second quarter, and Hurns only caught one pass. He was playing injured.

Mike Gesicki was involved early drawing matchups on the Giants safeties and linebackers. He had an opportunity on a takeoff against DeAndre Baker, but the pass was broken up. He caught four of eight for 47 yards. He continues to look more comfortable with each passing week.

Miami utilized plenty of offset 12-personnel formations (double tight ends inline to one side of the formation). Miami’s only semblance of a running game comes on stretch runs off this formation, and they do it in behind Clive Walford and Durham Smythe.

Walford was off to a sterling start, but two dropped passes quelled the strong showing. He and Smythe both hit a number of key blocks on Miami’s longer runs of the game.

Offensive Line

Miami shuffled the line throughout the day, and none of the combinations seemed to make improvements. Fitzpatrick was under siege, Miami failed to create any penetration on point-of-attack blocks, and another good scrambling day saved what otherwise could’ve been a shutout type of performance.

Michael Deiter’s issues are systemic at this point. He’s constantly off-balance, lacks conviction and confidence, and misses an assignment each time he’s out there. He looks good pulling and getting the second level, but that’s about where the praise stops.

Daniel Kilgore continues to demonstrate a lack of ability to do the things they want him to execute in this scheme. Reach blocks are an adventure, anchoring is a 50-50 proposition, and he rarely blows anybody off the ball.

Jesse Davis has quietly pieced together a better initial kick slide and pass set as a right tackle. He’s living up to his end of the bargain on those offset 12 runs to the right side.

Evan Brown, Shaq Calhoun and J’Marcus Webb were all difficult watches.

Defensive Line

Davon Godchaux has been the Devante Parker of the defense — consistently stable. Godchaux demonstrates his power with consistency, but he flashes big plays on a weekly basis with penetration. He made five more tackles Sunday, bringing his season total to 65.

Christian Wilkins is a poor man’s Godchaux in his rookie season. He too has the flash plays, but he’s not as consistent and can get moved a gap or two from time-to-time.

Taco Charlton was back after a healthy scratch a week ago. Taking Charles Harris’ spot, Taco made one tackle and saw a lot of runs go for big gains off his edge. The same was true on the other side against Avery Moss and the occasional outside ‘backer condensed inside to a six-technique.

Linebackers

Sam Eguavoen is piecing together a nice run. He came from the CFL as a standout in passing situations, and he’s been active doing just that. Falling into the hook zip and tipping footballs, applying pressure on the quarterback, and picking up a sack for the second straight week, Eguavoen is showcasing the goods to return as a sub package linebacker.

Jerome Baker had quite a day making plays. When he keys it and pulls the trigger, Baker is as disruptive as they come blowing up plays at the line-of-scrimmage. He used that speed to get into the hook zone for two plays on the ball, an interception and a PBU. He also made 12 tackles in the game.

Vince Biegel fell into the hook zone for a play of his own. Dropping in place of a blitzing Nik Needham, Biegel picked off the first pass of his career. He also continues to dent the edge and set up tackles as well as anyone on this defense.

Raekwon McMillan left the game with a hamstring injury. When he was out there, his impact was minimal. McMillan played all over the formation and tried to give Miami some help in more of a Sam ‘backer position.

Defensive Backs

It’s a mix mash of street free agents in the Miami secondary. For the fourth time this year, Miami signed a played on a Tuesday, then played him in the defensive backfield the following Sunday.

Nate Brooks was beaten up and down the field by fellow rookie Darius Slayton. Linden Stephens saw his first action as a Dolphins and made two tackles.

Eric Rowe made four tackles and continues to show his mettle in the box safety role. He’s definitely a fit going forward for that role.

Nik Needham had a day of peaks and valleys. He made an exceptional tackle on Saquon Barkley in space, but then came back and was juked badly by the former number-two overall pick. Needham got his hands on a ball that wound up going for a 51-yard touchdown. It was that kind of day for Needham and Miami.

Jomal Wiltz continues to show the competitiveness and tackling prowess that makes him a favorite to return as a sub package defensive back next season.

Recap

This game looked like a laugher early, in favor of the Dolphins. Despite three bad interceptions from Eli Manning, Miami continuously made errors that turned the game in favor of the home team.

Perhaps that result was best for Miami.

The Dolphins climb now to third in the 2020 NFL Draft. Miami leapfrogged Washington based on tie-breakers, as week 16 presents a pair of huge games in the race for better draft choices. Washington hosts the Giants while the Bengals visit Miami.

Winning one of the final two games would result in no worse than the fifth pick in the draft for the Fins, and Miami can climb all the way to second if the team finishes 3-13.

Whoever Miami deems as QB2 should be there for the taking. The Chase Young option will continue to compel the fan base, but his penchant for the up-field rush will likely make Miami pursue other avenues.

There’s a lot of time between now and the last weekend in April, including two more games. Brian Flores’ ability to get his team up for these final two could be telling.

Or maybe they won’t. It’s perfectly understandable if Miami are unable to mount a competitive fight in the final two weeks. The roster was depleted in every fashion imaginable (trades, cuts, injuries, player shutdowns), and even a good coaching staff has a breaking point.

The upshot for the 2019 season is that Miami secured a high draft pick and added a war chest of offseason resources. Perhaps best of all, the Dolphins now have surefire long-term fits that were largely unknowns just a few months prior.

Parker, Needham, Gesicki, Biegel, Rowe all emerged as surprise breakthrough players. Joining core parts like Godchaux, McMillan, Baker, and those returning from IR (Preston Williams, Xavien Howard, Bobby McCain, Jakeem Grant, Jonathan Ledbetter), reinforcements are on the way for the 2020 season.

This season has been brutal. We’re eight quarters away from its conclusion, and the real season beginning. The 2020 Miami Dolphins offseason.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Extend DeVante Parker

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

One of the longest-tenured players on the team may very well be a Miami Dolphin for life.

According to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, the Miami Dolphins have extended DeVante Parker through the 2023 season.

All of the details are still being flushed out, but the deal is a 4-year, $40m extension, with an $8m signing bonus (which is guaranteed).

According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Parker will earn $4.5m guaranteed in 2020, and $7.7m guaranteed in 2021.

Parker signs this extension in the middle of a career year. His 55 catches are 1 shy of his career-high (56, 2016), his 882 receiving yards surpass his prior career-high by 138 yards (2016), and his 6 touchdowns are only 3 less than his career total coming into the 2019 season.

Whether it’s Chad O’Shea‘s offense, a shift in Quarterback mentality, or the receiver finally coming into his own, Parker has shown that he can be a #1 receiver in this offense. Though some fans may be hoping for DeAndre Hopkins or Odell Beckham Jr. “elite”, the truth is, Parker isn’t that far behind.

His extension is in line with his production, and it’s fair to say that Parker’s potential still hasn’t been tapped. It’ll be interesting to see how much Parker builds off of his career-year, especially if the Dolphins can solidify their offensive line and give their receivers a chance to get open (more often).

Parker joins Ryan Tannehill and Mike Pouncey as the only other 1st-round picks drafted this decade to have signed an extension with the team.

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins roster move round-up: Week 15 sees several more changes

Shawn Digity

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Miami Dolphins Linden Stephens
Linden Stephens defending Los Angeles Rams tight end Johnny Mundt

MIAMI (Locked On Dolphins) – Miami Dolphins continue to change up the roster

The Miami Dolphins have continued their roster churning in Week 15, leading up to their prizefight against the New York Giants on December 15.

While it’s been a mainstay strategy for the Dolphins this year, to comb over the waiver wire and the free agency market, there was a significant uptick in waiver wire awards last, totaling four new players being claimed.

Last week’s claimed players included Trevor Davis, Mack Hollins, Zach Zenner, and Zach Sieler. Zenner’s Miami stint was short-lived; he was waived on Tuesday, December 10 to make room for the newest wave of Dolphins signees.

Along with Zenner’s release, the Miami Dolphins added cornerbacks Ken Webster and Ryan Lewis to the Injured Reserve list.

Those three transactions allowed the Dolphins to scoop a player from the New England Patriots’ practice squad, defensive back Nate Brooks, a second player from the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad, linebacker Jamal Davis II, and a third player, offensive lineman Adam Pankey, who was waived by the Green Bay Packers.

Nate Brooks is a rookie defensive back that played at North Texas and has spent time with the Patriots and Arizona Cardinals.

Jamal Davis II is also a rookie. He entered the league from Akron. As mentioned above, he spent time with the Titans earlier this year before the Miami Dolphins signed him.

Adam Pankey is the most traveled player the Dolphins have added. Pankey went undrafted in 2017 out of West Virginia and has had two runs with the Packers and a short one with the Titans.

On December 7, cornerback Linden Stephens was added to the roster in a last-minute shuffle before the Dolphins-Jets game. Cornerback Chris Lammons was released to make room for Stephens on the squad, per Adam Beasley.

Stephens has had tenures with the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos. He formerly played at Cincinnati in college.

In practice squad news, cornerback Rashard Causey was added to the group on December 12, per Safid Deen. Causey played college ball at UCF and has spent time with the Denver Broncos.

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